Zach's PEN #5: Moving Home, Round One

2020 Week 36

Dear PENpals,

As I mentioned in the last PEN, our move back to our home is delayed another two weeks, but when we called the movers to ask if we could reschedule, they said "If you cancel with this much notice, you're dead to us, so sure, you could reschedule, but not with us."

So Allison and I drove down to Philadelphia Thursday and met the two moving trucks, one from New York and one that had our stuff in storage in New Jersey.

Here is a photo of all of our worldly possessions stacked in our nearly-finished dining room. When all of your stuff is Jenga'd together in one Kowloonish monolith, it has the effect of feeling simultaneously like way too little and way too much...

Way too little: This is everything we own? Everything we've collected in nearly four decades on the planet, fully movable and stackable by four men in less than three hours, all in a space where you could fit 1.6 Volkswagens?

Way too much: Why do we own all this stuff? Several families could be crushed under the weight of this stuff in a horrible tragedy. How much of this should just be Kondo'd? If this stuff really sparks joy, why isn't it more neatly packed?

In two weeks, we will put "everything in its place," only this time, it will likely be the place that can be its place for a very long time. There's something so exciting about settling down. In my 20s, I never thought I could feel this way. I'm just so looking forward to putting a salad bowl in the drawer where I know it should be and will be whenever I reach for it. What a boring old man I have become, craving stability and quiet and a chair to sit in that is mine.

Speaking of being an old man: One thing I want to write about more in the near future is photography, and specifically how nice it is to fall back in love with photography after getting pretty numb to it through a few decades of doing it professionally. Specifically, I'd like to urge anyone interested to seriously consider taking another look at film photography, because:

  1. It's (way) more fun than digital,
  2. it's better quality than digital for almost everything, and yesโ€”
  3. it's significantly less costly than digital, even at the highest film/develop/scan cost of $1 per image (which you don't need to pay).

Initial proof of these three points below. I have so much I'm holding back here:

  1. Digital: Lack of constraints is terrible for creativity. Unlimited, automatically-exposed images that you can check immediately upon shooting (photographers refer to this, checking a photo right after you've taken it, as "chimping") creates a lazy, disembodied, screen-centered photography experience. Film: Knowing you've only got a limited number of shots makes you take them with much greater care, and not being able to chimp keeps you in the moment, seeing, experiencing. And don't even get me started on editing. There's nothing more anxious/tedious/soul-draining than going through hundreds of digital images, comparing slight differences between 25 of the same shot to figure out which one is the keeper... Let's be honest, most of us just end up with thousands of unedited photos in our backlog that never get shared with anyone. With film, the editing experience is the exact opposite: You can't wait to see your developed images. Each keeper feels like a gift from the gods. There is intense excitement and joy every step (the feeling is even better when you develop yourself).
  2. Pretty much every camera manufacturer improvement and editing software is designed to make our images look more like film. Pro Tip: Just shoot film to begin with.
  3. You can get an incredible camera a) with lenses, b) that has already lasted 50 years and c) will last another 50 years, for $100-$200. A full-frame digital "equivalent" (it won't even be as good) with lenses will start at $3,000 and will be broken or obsolete in less than 10 years and that's me being really, really charitable. Digital photography is a specious trap, and this is from a guy who owns a lot of digital cameras (which have their place/uses, just not for enjoying photography).

One of my favorite cameras is this little half-frame Olympus Pen from the 1950s that I got for less than $100. It's got a beautiful lens, fits in a jacket or blazer pocket, takes 72 shots per roll, and like most of my film cameras, never needs a battery. Think about that for a second... how refreshing that is. This thing could sit in a drawer for a year, 5 years, 10 years, and be pulled out and take a beautiful shot that very moment.

Here are a bunch of half-frame shots I took with the Pen in the winter before the world locked up. On some of them you can see the edges of my scan. Didn't take any time to clean up or color because you don't need to with film ๐Ÿ™‚. One thing I really love about this camera is that, because it's in portrait mode when holding it straight, you get these unintentional side-by-side mini-stories/diptychs/triptychs in the space that one normal frame usually takes up.

One of these days I'll put up some photos that aren't of my wife and kids. Just not today.

Thanks for being my PENpal,


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